Vila Real, FP1: Michelisz heads WTCC times
"It was an ok session"
Norbert Michelisz set the pace as Honda made a strong start to the WTCC Race of Portugal on Saturday morning in the first free practice session in Vila Real.
The Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver headed the timesheets for most of the 45-minute session. Team-mate and local hero Tiago Monteiro briefly went faster with a few minutes to go, but Michelisz immediately improved with a time of 1m58.118s around the fast and picturesque 4.785km street circuit. His benchmark was 0.6s faster than Monteiro’s best effort.
Michelisz has been suffering from a virus this week, but that didn’t appear to affect him on one of the most demanding circuits on the FIA World Touring Car Championship schedule.
“It was an ok session,” he said. “I was struggling with a lack of grip and some understeer, but looking at the times everyone seemed to have the same problem.”
The Hungarian took the opportunity to practice taking the ‘joker’ lap route around the final corner, making six runs through the alternative section which must be used once in each race this weekend.
“It was a bit more difficult than I expected,” he reported. “The kerb doesn’t look that high out of the car, but it unsettles the car when you hit it.”
The biggest talking point of the practice session was Tom Coronel’s crash in his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1. The Dutchman went straight on at a fast downhill section and smashed into the side of a stationary safety vehicle. Coronel and the two occupants of the van appeared to escape injury.
The session was also interrupted by a red flag when a dog ran on to the track with just under 10 minutes remaining.
Polestar Cyan Racing’s Thed Bjork trailed the two Hondas with the third best time in his Volvo S60 WTCC, head of Rob Huff in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. Championship points leader Nicky Catsburg was fifth fastest in his Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo.
The FIA WTCC Race of Portugal weekend continues with Free Practice 2 at 12h00 local time.
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